By Siaka Momoh
Joseph Makoju is a rare Nigerian breed who can hold his own in any part of the globe. He made his mark right from his toddling years, so to speak. Born on July 13, 1948, in Okene, Kogi state, Makoju was a Harford award winner of Government College, Kaduna and also a J. F. Kennedy essays award winner of Federal Government College, Warri.
He graduated with a first class honours, mechanical engineering at the University of Nottingham, UK in 1972. He also bagged a master of philosophy in mechanical engineering in 1974 from the same university.
Makoju has a sweet portfolio of top appointments in the private and public sector. He was CEO West African Portland Cement, Group Managing Director/ CEO of the Dangote Cement PLC, and Special Adviser on electricity to presidents Obasanjo and Jonathan. He was at a time, chairman Cement Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. He is a highly respected industry stakeholder.
This Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (FNSE), Nigerian Institute of Management (FNIM) and the Nigerian Academy of Engineering and member of the British Institute of Mechanical Engineers, Nigerian Institute of Management and the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (mni) passed on to glory on April 11, 2022.
I got to know Joseph Makoju closely and by extension came to know the quality of the stuff he was made of during the putting together of a seminar on the use of concrete pavements for Nigerian roads.
How it all started
The journey started September 2012. It commenced then when BusinessDay, in collaboration with Cement Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, held a conference with the theme ‘Exploring Cement Based Option for Sustainable Road Construction in Nigeria’ at Eko Hotel & Suites Victoria Island, Lagos. It was a great conference which laid bare very convincing facts – facts that tell you it is economically wise( on the long run) for Nigeria to go concrete roads. At the end of deliberations at the conference, the following points among many others were made:
• There is enormous deficit in transportation infrastructure which is an important requirement for economic development.
• The technology being used for road construction across the world has attracted a lot of inputs from cement-based materials as against the use of asphalt, adding that Nigeria needs to imbibe this new technology.
• Asphalt is in great use for local production for Nigeria, yet across the world, concrete is used for road pavements.
• Concrete roads facilitate accessibility and movement; there is need for us to adopt this road construction option.
• Use of cement for road construction is cost-effective, long lasting, requires less maintenance and is more environmental-friendly, relative to Asphalt.
• Over 99.9 percent of road construction today in Nigeria involves the use of Asphalt. While about 40 percent of the roads in developed countries are made of cement, less than 0.1 percent is used in Nigeria.
• Cement which is readily available in the country today can be utilized in constructing longer-lasting, more cost-efficient roads.
Joseph Makoju, then chairman Cement Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and special adviser to Dangote Group’s president and CEO, who was an arrow head of the conference, told BusinessDay more in an exclusive interview with this writer and his colleague Chuka Uroko in Lagos. For him, “Constructing a road with cement is between 25 and 50 per cent cheaper than making it with asphalt, a method that is currently popular with Nigeria. And this is when you take the life cycle of the road into consideration. But the concrete road is 10 per cent more expensive to construct than asphalt road, which is the initial capital cost when you are constructing it”.
Makoju argued somebody who is just looking at the immediate cost would be attracted to asphalt. “But one thing we definitely know, even the asphalt road construction engineers will admit, the life cycle of the road is what matters. Once you have completed the road, take the life cycle of the road over 20- 30 years and more, the concrete becomes extremely much cheaper because less maintenance is required. And in a country like Nigeria where we know we have poor maintenance culture, it makes sense then that the choice should be concrete road.”
For Makoju, if 20 percent of our roads are concrete, 20 percent of these roads should be motorable now.
He argued: “What we are now advising is what is happening worldwide. In most advanced countries like the U.S., Germany, etc., about 50 percent of their roads are concrete. While the emerging economies like India and Brazil have 5 to 10 percent in concrete, Nigeria’s is a fraction of 1 percent. So we have a lot of catching up to do.”
What makes the takeoff of the project interesting is the private sector involvement, a step that is in consonance with the deliberation at the conference.
For instance, a paper presented by Amadou Wadda, Senior Vice President, Infrastructure, AFC, made a strong case for private sector involvement. The organizers of the conference brought in experts on road infrastructure from across the world.
The Federal Government has since endorsed the use of concrete pavements for the construction of our roads. It would be recalled that the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola flagged off the re-construction of the N73 billion Apapa/Oworonshoki Motorway (which starts off from Creek Road (Apapa) through Liverpool to Tincan and terminates at the toll gate near Oworonshoki) few years back.
Work on the motorway is speedily in progress.